More virus measures eased in the NT

Crowds of up to 500 are allowed at venues as the Northern Territory eases coronavirus restrictions.
Crowds of up to 500 are allowed at venues as the Northern Territory eases coronavirus restrictions.

After a strange few weeks in which people could drink at the pub but only if sitting with a meal - or train with their sports team, but not play - the Northern Territory's three-stage easing of coronavirus restrictions is complete.

The weird "new normal" of the past month , as NT government MPs call it, was welcomed as it was better than when everything was in lockdown but still didn't feel right.

The most obvious effects on Friday will be people resuming playing team sports, including those with contact such as football and netball.

Supporters can attend but events with more than 500 people must apply for a special COVID-19 safety plan.

Territorians can go to the pub again and stand up and have a drink, without needing to eat.

Cinemas, concert halls, nightclubs and other entertainment venues can open, but must comply with physical distancing which was unheard of a few months ago but is now considered normal and restricts how many customers are allowed in.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the government believed that more than 2000 people would return to work from Friday.

The majority were in hospitality industry jobs, including casinos, and beauty salons were among other businesses to provide full services again.

About 6000 Territorians had gone back to work since the easing of restrictions first brought in in March to tackle the global pandemic, he said.

The NT is free of active cases and has had 30 since March but no community transmission or deaths.

"This makes it a bit easier for all of us, more places open, fewer rules and most importantly though, more Territorians back at work," Mr Gunner told reporters.

"This is a very important day for the Northern Territory, we are where we are because of our strong borders."

However the NT Labor government continues to resist opening its borders to the states, despite pressure from tourism and hospitality businesses not viable without visitors to Prime Minister Scott Morrison who wants them open next month.

Mr Gunner said he would consider the borders each week from mid-June and it would depend on how the rest of Australia was tracking with COVID-19, which has killed at least 394,000 people worldwide.

"By keeping our borders strong is what has allowed our businesses to open," Mr Gunner said.

However he acknowledged an economic cliff was looming and hoped the federal government provided more financial support.

Darwin business owner Jazz Walia, who runs the Fresh Point Co. Cafe and an Indian restaurant, said it had been a difficult time in which he had been forced to learn and think outside the box to survive.

Mr Walia organised with another business Bamboo Lounge to cook and provide free, pre-made meals to the many international students in Darwin who lost their jobs during the shutdown.

"I felt for the business that shut during this time who can get back on track today, it is all about getting it together, seeing others and saying yes they are doing it and we are getting it together too," he said.

Australian Associated Press